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[CM] [Gen] [T] Hidden Wounds

love slave
Title: Hidden Wounds
Genre: Hurt/Comfort
Characters: Hotch, Prentiss (Hotch/Prentiss if you squint a little)
Length: 1,600 words
Rating: T
Warnings: Non-graphic references to torture/abuse
Credits: Many thanks to my dear pixie_on_acid for helping me make sense of this.

Summary: Hotch needs help, whether he realizes it or not, and Emily wants to make sure he gets it.

A/N: I actually started out intending to write Hotch/Prentiss smut, as requested, but I just couldn’t do it. You see, the day before, I’d gotten a preview of the story I won in the Sweet Charity auction – a Criminal Minds/Without a Trace crossover by the afore-credited Pixie – and it just spoiled me for Emily pairings for a while. Emily and Martin Fitzgerald are my Crossover OTP of Gleee!


Hidden Wounds


The team had an agreement: they wouldn't profile each other. In practical terms, that meant turning a blind eye to inconsistencies, to behavior that didn't correspond with what was said. If Hotch said he was fine, they were supposed to accept that he was fine, despite the shaking hands of the steadiest man any of them knew.

But now Emily knows something the others don't.

"Why didn't you tell us?" she asks, leaning back against his office door as she closes it. She tries to keep her voice neutral, but some of the hurt seeps in - the hurt she feels for him, for what he's gone through.

Hotch doesn't answer. Emily guesses from his expression that he's assessing his options, and she decides to scratch 'denial' off his list. "I was walking behind you on the stairs before. I could see inside your collar."

He flinches almost imperceptibly. Closing the open file on his desk, he studies her face, as if he's profiling her now, trying to find her weakness.

"You have to talk to someone," she insists.

"There's nothing to talk about," he says firmly. "All the significant details of the case are in my report."

"You were tortured."

Hotch rises to his feet. "I don't want to talk about this, Agent Prentiss."

She notices the way he falls back on formality, on rank - calling her by her title as a subtle reminder that he's in charge. Clearly, profiling her has told him that she responds to authority. Not this time. "You have to talk to someone," she repeats emphatically.

He pauses for a moment, then changes tactics. "You know better than anyone why I can't give Strauss any ammunition. This team is just becoming stable again. If they put me on leave, or worse..."

"Everything will fall apart." She anticipates this concern and doesn't think he's overestimating his own importance to the team. "But what's going to happen to the team if you fall apart?"

"Do you think I'm falling apart?"

The question is a challenge and she knows everything hinges on her answer. If she says no, it will support his argument that he doesn't need help. If she says yes, he'll disagree and dismiss anything she has to say.

"I think no one would know if you were falling apart until it was too late – maybe not even you."




The knock on her door doesn't wake Emily, but it does surprise her. She almost never has visitors - virtually no one even knows where she lives - and absolutely never in the middle of the night. She thinks about grabbing her sidearm from the desk drawer on her way to the front door, but doesn't, deciding she simply won't open the door if there's anything suspicious. What she sees through the peephole is shocking, but not suspicious in the least.

"Hi," she says, opening the door to Hotch. It's one a.m. and he still looks neatly pressed, though his tie has disappeared and his collar is open. His hands rest in the pockets of his coat.

"You said I should talk to someone."

Emily nods and stands aside, letting him in.

She watches him scan his surroundings and wonders what he's learning about her. Neat, sparse, slightly impersonal, she thinks, a woman who puts her career before her personal life. But then, she's sure he knew that already.

She sits on the couch and he joins her, but he doesn't look at her. She knows it's easier for him that way.

"Cigarette burns," he says dispassionately. "In the shape of the number 13."

"Because he wanted you to be his 13th victim," Emily supplies.

"I knew the team would find me. I wasn't afraid of that."

"Are you serious?" Emily can't believe even Hotch could attain that level of certainty. When he makes a decision, he doesn't second-guess it even if lives are on the line, but this was different – these were their decisions, his life on the line.

"Yes." He looks at her for the first time since he came inside, and she sees the surprise on his face that she would doubt it. "Reid was firing at the van when it pulled away and calling my name. I knew he had to have seen the license plate and the business name. Even if he hadn't seen the driver, with the other evidence we had, I believed that was enough for the team to go on. I just had to stall."

Emily considers that. She can easily believe he'd trust Reid's memory, but something in what Hotch said bothers her. "If you weren't afraid of that, what were you afraid of?"

He turns away again, and Emily knows she's struck a nerve. She waits silently for an answer.

"Of how much I wanted to kill him," Hotch finally replies, and there's a harshness in his tone she's never heard before.

He’d had that opportunity during the tense moments following their team’s arrival. Rossi had located him, untied him, and given him his second gun. They’d joined the rest of the team as they searched the building. Hotch had come face-to-face with his attacker, and he didn’t shoot. They brought him in alive.

Emily’s first instinct is to tell him that what he feels is normal. The man was a sadist who abducted and tortured him – who had abducted, tortured, and killed twelve other people. But Hotch knows that rage is a common response, so she's sure he's trying to tell her something more significant. "What made this one different?"

Hotch turns to face her. Eyes fixed on her face, he pulls his shirt aside from the open collar, revealing three faded round scars on his right shoulder. Emily glances at them, then looks back at his eyes. "Burns?"

He nods. "My father."




Hotch is silent after that. He has apparently told her everything he plans to tell her, and Emily decides it's wise not to push him. Letting people in is not something that comes easily to him; the fact that he’s told her this much shows that he was as close to the edge as she suspected. He needed a release valve, before he lost control. She is relieved that he recognized it, and maybe a little bit pleased that it was her door he knocked on tonight.

Emily leaves Hotch on the sofa and goes to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. When she returns, he is sitting with his head in his hands. "Hotch?" She thinks he may have fallen asleep. Emily sets the coffee mugs down on the table and touches his shoulder. Hotch jolts awake with a wince, and Emily jerks back her hand. "I'm so sorry! I didn't think."

"It's alright," he says with a grimace. "It's fine."

"Have you had the wounds looked at?"

"No," he admits. "But I've got some experience with this. They'll heal."

Emily frowns. "At least you could have Haley put some-"

"Haley and I separated," he says brusquely. "Months ago."

"Oh."

After a moment of uncomfortable silence, he stands. "I should go. It's late."

"Hotch, wait." Emily steps in front of him, blocking the path to the door. "Let me."

He studies her face, and Emily doesn't shy away. Without a word, he lays his coat on the arm of the couch and begins to unbutton his shirt cuffs. Emily hurries to the kitchen and grabs the first aid kit from under the sink. She pulls two clean dishtowels from the drawer and fills a bowl with warm water from the sink. When she returns, he is sitting sideways on the couch with his back to her. She is momentarily overwhelmed by the sight - the strong, angular lines of his body marred by the red, rough-edged circles on his skin.

Silently, she sets to work, gently bathing each of the burns with warm water then patting it dry. She counts thirty-two separate marks forming the numbers that brand him. When she finishes cleaning the wounds, she opens the first aid kit and begins applying antibiotic cream.

"I understand it now," she finally says. She doesn't say what she understands, but she thinks he'll know what she means. She understands why he is so private, why he keeps his thoughts to himself and his emotions so tightly in check. He has to guard against identifying too strongly with the victims. On the surface, he may appear to lack compassion or empathy, but he fully comprehends their fear, pain, and helplessness.

"This case... it just hit too close to home." There's more vulnerability in his voice than she expects to hear, but of course, it comes down to the job for him. "I wasn't objective, and I not only put myself in a dangerous situation, I put Reid in jeopardy too."

“You followed a lead, Hotch. You had no way of knowing–”

“I should have waited for back-up. I made a rash decision to go in when we suspected the unsub was in the building. Anything could’ve happened.”

"But it didn’t. Reid is fine, and you'll be fine," she assures him.

"How can you be sure of that?"

Emily stops what she's doing and leans to the side until she can see his face. She might not have been sure an hour ago, but with more information, she is confident that she knows the key to holding him together. She tells him slowly and clearly. "You wanted to kill him, but you didn't."

"We leave it to the courts to punish the criminals. Our only job is to stop them."

Emily sits back and resumes tending to his injuries with a soft smile. That's the Hotch she is used to - all principle and action. "You're going to be just fine."

Comments

( 39 comments — Leave feedback )
a_blackpanther
Nov. 27th, 2007 07:53 pm (UTC)
Awesome! I loved how you tied everything together. Hotch's "And some grow up to catch them" line that was never followed up on, Emily being the one that actually isn't afraid to tell people she notices something's wrong. Very very nice. However the ending seems a bit abrupt, and somehow 'light' compared to the rest of the story.

And i wouldn't mind if you did get around to writing that smut.
squeelated
Nov. 27th, 2007 09:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm really glad you got where I was going with that. The Hotch thing is a big loose end to me. I just want to demand that they come on and give us backstory already!

I agree about the ending. It didn't totally work for me. I was trying to get across that just by admitting it and facing his issue, she was confident he'd be able to recover from the rest. But not in a magic bullet kind of way, which I think is what I ended up with, in retrospect.

And I may get to that smut for you yet. :-) Or I might have to write really dreadful Martin/Emily/Hotch triangles!
a_blackpanther
Nov. 28th, 2007 07:09 pm (UTC)
Yup, kind of a magic bullet, but i've seen worse. A whole lot worse.

And yes we actually need an ep that will clear up Hotch's backstory.
goodisrelative
Nov. 27th, 2007 10:33 pm (UTC)
Dude. Finally done with class. Thank you for your patience in my endeavor to be a good little student! :-P

This was excellent. I,too, love how you brought back that definite loose end about Hotch's past. We really do need a Hotch ep. It always lingers in the back of my mind too. I love how you did that, but still wrote him in perfect character.

I love how Emily is patient to wait for his answers, reading him well. She is really good at it at times. And she's perfectly in character too. I like how she doesn't forget he has fresh injuries and asks about them... and then doesn't let him leave without her looking at them and cleaning them.

You did a wonderful job! Hmm, it appears I need some non-Morgan or Garcia CM icons.

Edited at 2007-11-27 10:33 pm (UTC)
squeelated
Nov. 28th, 2007 01:20 am (UTC)
YAY! Thank you very much! I'm glad the characterization worked for you. I was trying to capture the thinky stuff without sacrificing the voices, you know?

We really do need a Hotch episode! He's neglected.
goodisrelative
Nov. 28th, 2007 01:29 am (UTC)
You succeeded in keeping the voices.

And he IS so neglected!
dragonladyk
Nov. 28th, 2007 02:09 am (UTC)
And he IS so neglected!

Due to inability to add. I swear, in the CM bible under Hotch's backstory it must say, "whatever works for the other characters."

DragonLady
dragonladyk
Nov. 28th, 2007 02:07 am (UTC)
I think the writers are shying from a Hotch ep because they're aware they've screwed up his backstory so badly there's no fixing it -- best to shove it in a closet and ignore it. (First his father's an abuser, then he isn't; first he died of a heart attack, then cancer; first Hotch is 37, then he's 45+; first his first BAU case was in '99, then it was before '97...)

DragonLady

Edited at 2007-11-28 02:08 am (UTC)
goodisrelative
Nov. 28th, 2007 02:13 am (UTC)
I know. It's a disaster.
a_blackpanther
Nov. 28th, 2007 07:13 pm (UTC)
After having watched the begging of The Tribe earlier and now seeing your comment i'm starting to think that the hear attack was just what they told Sean? Cause their father tried to hid his illness (Ashes & Dust) but Hotch found out anyway, and maybe he and their mother decided Sean is better of not knowing (as Hotch says he was very young).

Yeah i'm trying to make sense where there isn't any. Again.
lurking_around
Nov. 29th, 2007 04:04 pm (UTC)
I won't say they haven't flubbed his backstory something awful in general. But I don't actually think the examples you mentioned are necessarily incoherent with a bit of...finessing: they specifically said the '99 case was the first with Gideon, and we know the early folk tended to work solo. If the press was right and Rossi's the one who'd recruited him, it's possible he would have worked for a few years before teaming up with Gideon. And a heart attack isn't unheard of as an immediate cause of death for a lung cancer patient. As to how his career fits in with being in highschool in 1987...okay, I admit. That one, I can't begin to fathom.

I have to admit though, even without fanwank, I've never thought Ashes and Dust/the Tribe ever cancelled out the idea that his father was the abuser though. Even a complete bastard has the occasional human moment. That just makes it harder. And Sean is young enough that lying to him, and just...accentuating the positive traits, could have been the easiest option. (Especially if, since Hotch was supposedly a teen when his father had cancer, his father was then too weak from the illness to be much of a presence in Sean's life even before his death.)
cimness
Nov. 27th, 2007 11:46 pm (UTC)
Short but tense and powerfully effective - very, very good! Thanks; I enjoyed this a lot.
squeelated
Nov. 28th, 2007 01:21 am (UTC)
What a lovely compliment! Thank you so much!
unmellow_yellow
Nov. 28th, 2007 12:22 am (UTC)
This was wonderful, I really liked it a lot! The dialogue is SO them, and you really captured Emily's thought processes so well!
squeelated
Nov. 28th, 2007 01:31 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm glad the thinky parts came across to you - I was worried about that. Not having any idea how profilers really think, I just wrote it as it made sense to me, you know? ;-)
unmellow_yellow
Nov. 28th, 2007 03:28 am (UTC)
And it worked beautifully! But now I want more more MORE! *maniacal shippers laugh* :D
dragonladyk
Nov. 28th, 2007 02:05 am (UTC)
Very, very nice. More friendship than 'ship, but still, a very good piece. Emily is typically Emily, jumping in where angels fear to tread, and it's nice to see her more nurturing side. Hotch was very Hotchly, and I'm glad someone else picked upon the duality in "Natural Born Killer."

I personally can't imagine Hotch's father leaving scars; abusers of "good repute" generally don't leave permanent marks or bruise areas like the face and forearms that can easily be seen. But then again, that wouldn't have left any convenient marks for the narrative. ^^ And perhaps Mr. Hotchner felt secure enough in his power over his family he believed he'd never be reported. Hm. I guess you're just going to have to write a follow-up piece to explain...

DragonLady
squeelated
Nov. 28th, 2007 02:42 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Hotchly! That makes a fabulous adjective. :-) My current pet theory is that Hotch had a poor white trash upbringing, with basically no one to turn to, and the general indifference to abuse that you often find in severely impoverished communities. The cool, polished exterior would be something he worked on to separate himself from his past.

dragonladyk
Nov. 28th, 2007 03:11 am (UTC)
If you go that route in fic, you'll have to explain "Blood Hungry." Hotch is very familiar with the upper-class genealogies (he knows Gwaithme is an old Tidewater family) and he states his mother attended Mary Baldwin, a WASP school. ^^;; (I know, remembering these tiny details is a sickness.)

I must, I'm afraid, credit Slash-girl with the invention of "Hotchly."

DragonLady
squeelated
Nov. 28th, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC)
Didn't remember that. Hmm, let's see... His mother attended on a scholarship? Or his mother was from a good family, but they disowned her when she married his father and she had no one to turn to? (Kinda like Mrs. Price in Mansfield Park.) There are still possibilities there!
dragonladyk
Nov. 29th, 2007 05:23 am (UTC)
There are still possibilities there! Didn't say you couldn't explain it. Just that you'd have to. ~.^ DragonLady
nikomaria
Nov. 28th, 2007 10:47 am (UTC)
I'm not good with words, but I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading it, as others have already said you really captured their voices. Great job!

And double yes, we really need a Hotch backstory ep, but on the other hand you all are doing such a good job with providing a fictional backstory for Hotch, I'm afraid my expectation are way to high now lol

squeelated
Nov. 28th, 2007 11:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! What a delightful compliment! :-)
bets_cyn
Nov. 28th, 2007 11:52 pm (UTC)
Lover-ly!
I like it.
While I'm annoyed they keep screwing over Hotch's backstory and his life... I wished they'd stop making every FBI agent seperated or divorced, I know the rate is high, but some of them are happily married dangit!

Anyway, beautifully written and perfectly keyed to their voices.

-bets
squeelated
Nov. 29th, 2007 05:51 pm (UTC)
Re: Lover-ly!
Christi was really upset about the same thing. They were portrayed as having such a nice relationship. :-(

And thank you! I'm so pleased you liked it!
bets_cyn
Nov. 29th, 2007 10:51 pm (UTC)
Re: Lover-ly!
Besides: it's one of your fic, how could I NOT like it?
:-)
squeelated
Nov. 30th, 2007 04:20 am (UTC)
Re: Lover-ly!
Awwww! *snuggles*
bets_cyn
Nov. 30th, 2007 04:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Lover-ly!
:-)
lurking_around
Nov. 29th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)
Oh, how lovely. I really enjoyed this story.
squeelated
Nov. 29th, 2007 05:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much. I'm delighted that you liked it!
(Anonymous)
Nov. 29th, 2007 09:28 pm (UTC)
This was amazing. Any more H/P pairing fics in the near, near future? You are an amazing writer and you really stay true to the characters. I loved it. and I would love to read some more, hint hint.
squeelated
Nov. 30th, 2007 04:20 am (UTC)
Flattery will get you everywhere! :-) Seriously, thanks so much. And I'll see what I can do about providing more in the near future.
(Anonymous)
Nov. 30th, 2007 07:34 am (UTC)
YAY!!!!
mariemjs
Dec. 3rd, 2007 01:34 pm (UTC)
I've never been really interested in Hotch/Prentiss fics before, but you seriously convinced me that it was a great ship, at least friend-ship with that wonderful fic. The characters writing was great and now my evil little mind is working and I wish we had MORE! I might have to ask you to write a sequel, I would love that :D

Thanks for the great work!!
squeelated
Dec. 3rd, 2007 03:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I take that as the greatest compliment, when someone says I've made them believe in something they didn't see before. I'm delighted that it did that for you!
realityaskew
Dec. 6th, 2007 03:55 am (UTC)
This was an amazing fic. I love Hotch/Prentiss. I hope you are going to write some more fics because I would definitely read them.
squeelated
Dec. 6th, 2007 02:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the encouragement! Glad you liked it!
autumnwriting
Dec. 26th, 2007 11:24 pm (UTC)
This was *great.* I really enjoyed it, and your characters were very believable.

...and I wouldn't mind if you got around to some of that Hotch/Prentiss smut you were talking about earlier...*whistles and looks at ceiling innocently*

Well done. Now go write more. <3 ; )
squeelated
Dec. 27th, 2007 12:15 am (UTC)
LOL. Thank you! I'm very glad you enjoyed it. I really am considering a sequel to this, but I have a few ficathons for other fandoms to get out of the way first.
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